Liberal Arts and 55+ Program

About the Liberal Arts and 55+ Program

A university engaged in lifelong learning

SFU's Liberal Arts and 55+ Program, which includes a variety of courses and events for adults of any age as well as daytime courses for adults 55+, is one of the largest and most successful of its kind in North America.

We've been offering courses to adults 55+ for more than 40 years—because we understand the importance of lifelong learning:

  • Keeping your mind active is both enjoyable and beneficial
  • Learning something new takes your mind off your worries
  • Studying helps you stay connected to your world
  • Education improves your memory and your health

How we began

Dr. Jack Blaney was the first dean of SFU’s Continuing Studies unit and the founder of what was then called the Seniors Program in the early 1970s. Blaney was always looking for ways to encourage more people to participate in post-secondary education. With the help of a provincial grant, he launched the first academic program specifically designed for lifelong learners in North America.

“[The program] sought to enhance and support seniors’ intellectual enlightenment, rather than simply facilitating recreational activities.”

– Dr. Jack Blaney, Dean of Continuing Studies

SFU established a series of Continuing Studies courses for seniors, along with a quirky, short-lived half-hour television show called the Age of Options.

“One of the greatest needs of older adults is the challenge of an important personal goal. Such a program, the first of its kind on this continent, could serve that need and others. I think it is within SFU’s capability to mount a diploma program for older adults that, in content and methodology, would be highly rewarding both for its students and this institution.”

– Dr. Jack Blaney, Dean of Continuing Studies

In February 1975, the program offered 12 courses in a variety of subject areas, including creative writing, photography, theatre, reading and study skills, and sculpture. It was later noted that 251 people from the Lower Mainland had taken courses in that first term. With sponsorship assistance, courses continued into spring 1976, branching out into other disciplines, including music, archaeology and psychology.

As a growing number of Greater Vancouver's municipalities began offering similar classes for older adults, it was decided that the program would focus exclusively on academic courses. Beginning in fall 2011, courses for adults of any age began in the evenings and on Saturdays.

Sue Robinson on how SFU's courses for seniors are changing her life